May 27, 2024

Had you turned on the second game of this Clippers season in its fourth quarter Friday, you would have seen a team finding innumerable ways to win.

Trailing Utah by 10 with 10 minutes to play, the Clippers found a foothold and began climbing uphill. A 17-4 run gave them their first lead. Playing the last 9:58 without a center on the floor, their smaller lineups were able to spread the floor for three-pointers by Norman Powell, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, whose shot from the top of the arc with 1:06 left pushed the Clippers ahead by a point as he flexed.

The comeback ultimately could not overcome all the reasons why they needed a rally in the first place, as the Clippers found ways to dig themselves into a hole en route to a 120-118 loss.

The Clippers (1-1) allowed Utah (1-1) to take 96 shots, 19 more than Los Angeles attempted, and they turned the ball over 16 times for 15 points by Utah. Utah collected 17 offensive rebounds — 11 more than the Clippers — and scored 33 second-chance points. Utah made difficult shots but their movement on offense was hard for the Clippers, with their aim of a top-five defense, to contain.

“I thought early on it was hard to get stops,” coach Tyronn Lue said.

George willed the second-half rally. Of the Clippers’ 29 points in the third quarter, he scored 15. It took him 25 games last season to attempt double-digit free throws; on Friday, he reached that mark by the third quarter and finished 15 of 15. He scored 36 points.

Unlike Wednesday’s season opener in which the Clippers never trailed, they never led Friday until 5:49 remained in the fourth quarter after Nicolas Batum’s three. The Clippers ultimately led by four in the final minutes before a three-pointer by Jordan Clarkson gave Utah a two-point lead with 28 seconds to play, and shots by Leonard and Russell Westbrook in the final seconds missed.

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